Big 12 needs to follow SEC’s lead: Fines for court storming, bans for unruly fans
MANHATTAN, Kan. — The problem, like everything else, is we — and by we, the implication is college administrators and network programmers — want it both ways, cake and all. A student section is expected to be reasonably civilized on one hand, while bouncing off the ceiling, shredding objects, waving signs and screaming like a pack of banshees for two-and-a-half hours on the other.
Tough line, that. They call it "home-court advantage." Lawyers might call it "inciting a riot."
Crowd control, as Monday night’s Kansas-Kansas State game proved for the umpteenth time, is a tricky business. Lack a plan or lack the execution — Wildcat officials claim the melee following K-State’s 70-63 win was the latter — and you get a free-for-all on national television. Hire the Hell’s Angels for security, the way the Rolling Stones did to try and protect the stage at Altamont in 1969, and a bunch of teenagers end up getting brained by a pool cue.
"I think it’s getting to the point where (court storming) needs to go away," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "I mean, it’s very flammable.
"And I thought coach (Bill) Self and his guys handled that (situation) very well, based on what I’ve seen or heard. They could’ve easily reacted — I saw a kid run up or a kid push or shove or chicken-wing one of the players after the game. That’s not a smart thing to do."
Smart kids do dumb things. Based on the footage from Bramlage Coliseum, repeated on a loop on the morning chat shows, some adults do dumb things, too.
"Our security staff, which in similar past postgame celebrations has, according to our procedures and rehearsals, provided a solid human barrier to allow the teams to conduct a postgame handshake and safely leave the court," K-State athletic director John Currie said in the statement, "was unable to get into proper position quickly enough last night and was overwhelmed by the fans rushing the floor."
It’s OK to hate the Kansas Jayhawks. It’s not OK to walk over to Jamari Traylor or Bill Self and get in their respective grills. At that point, if you wind up on the floor, minus a few teeth, well — that’s on you, champ.
Or at least, it should be.
Buying a ticket entitles you to be entertained. It does not entitle you to become a part of the show, nor to rewrite the ending to your own personal satisfaction.
As K-State coach Bruce Weber put it during his postgame news conference, life is not a video game. In fantasy world, Kate Upton is waiting in some medieval castle for you to rescue her from your dorm room or apartment. In the real world, she dates a tall, rich, good-looking All-Star baseball player, and you are none of the above.
If colleges wanted court storming to go away, it would go away. But they don’t. Or rather, they don’t want to pay for it.
Last March, students at Utah Valley rushed on to the floor and took swings at a New Mexico State basketball player. Monday night, a K-State fan was seen colliding into Traylor, the brawny KU forward, on his way to the visiting bench. A Kansas assistant was captured on film putting a fan in a headlock.
Allegedly, terse words were exchanged between Jayhawk coaches and the police at Bramlage Coliseum. The heat of the moment, sometimes, makes fools of us all.
"K-State prides itself on providing a great game atmosphere in a safe environment and did successfully execute our security plan when we defeated KU last year in Bramlage as well as in 2011," Currie’s statement continued. "Although no one was hurt (Monday) night, we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident. We are disappointed that we did not do better for the KU team."
As well they should. Moreover, Curie noted, the school is "actively reviewing video" and working with local police to identify any fans who touched KU players or staffers.
Fine. Let’s go farther. Let’s make it real.
The league also released a statement Tuesday morning to note that a review of the scrum is underway, and that "in accordance with Conference policy, home team game management is responsible for the implementation of protocols to provide for the safety of all game participants, officials and fans."
If storming is inevitable, then it needs to be constructive, too. The Big 12 can actually take the baton on this one, as opposed to getting beaten over the head with one by the national pundits.
Step 1: Hit the host school.
First incident: $5,000 to be donated to the charity of the opposing coach’s choice.
Second incident: $10,000, same deal.
Third incident: $20,000, and so on, doubling the fine with each occurrence after that.
Step 2: Ban anyone who lays a finger on the players, coaches or officials.
Charging the court can be a harmless, if silly, release. Charging a player or coach or referee is a potential felony. If a patron is seen touching or harassing one of the game’s principals in any way, he or she is gone. Doesn’t matter if they’re a fat-cat donor or a sophomore who had a little too much Red Bull. If they are proven and cited by corresponding authorities, their seat privileges are automatically revoked for the rest of the season.
If you have, heaven forbid, a repeat offender, then make the second offense for two years, and double every incident after that.
What’s funny is how athletic directors and administrators remain torn on the issue. Some view it as an absolute powder keg of liability and should be banned outright. Others think it’s a rite of passage, and that its inevitability makes fines and bans futile.
The Southeastern Conference has adopted the former, where fines increase each time it happens, from a first-time hit of $5,000 to a second of $25,000, with the damages doubling for each incident after that.
K-State’s game-management crew dropped the ball here, either because they really weren’t ready or — considering the recent form of a 14-15 squad, losers of seven of its last eight Big 12 games before Monday — they didn’t expect they would need to be.
And neither is an excuse.
One of the charms of Bramlage, the Octagon of Doom, is also a potentially dangerous fault: The students are seated close to the floor in a large bloc, perpendicular to the baskets and exactly across the floor from both benches. Again, it makes for a fantastic image on television, a wall of sound, fire and passion.
And if they’re going to do this every time they beat the Jayhawks, then those students need to be broken up. Or moved farther away from the floor.
"In football, they took it away because goal posts would go down and (sway) or whatnot," Marshall continued. "I don’t know what we could do. … In basketball, just because they’re so close, there’s not a sideline or benches between the court.
"At our place (Koch Arena), you have to hop over a rail, but we’ve never done it (like that); we’ve never stormed the court here since I’ve been here, at least. But I’ve seen it last year, when we were on that (unbeaten) run, there were some court stormings that we extinguished by our winning. But it’s dangerous. It really is."
K-State administrators said all the right things Tuesday. Their actions, from here on out, will speak twice as loudly.